Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

The prevalence and workplace costs of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in a large manufacturing firm

R. C. Kesslera1 c1, M. Lanea1, P. E. Stanga2 and D. L. Van Brunta3

a1 Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

a2 Institute for Primary Care Research, Blue Bell, PA, USA

a3 Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, IN, USA


Background Little is known about the effects of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on work performance or accidents-injuries.

Method A survey was administered in 2005 and 2006 to employees of a large manufacturing firm to assess the prevalence and correlates of adult ADHD. Respondents (4140 in 2005, 4423 in 2006, including 2656 in both surveys) represented 35–38% of the workforce. ADHD was assessed with the World Health Organization (WHO) Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS), a validated screening scale for DSM-IV adult ADHD. Sickness absence, work performance and workplace accidents-injuries were assessed with the WHO Health and Work Performance Questionnaire (HPQ).

Results The estimated current prevalence (standard error) of DSM-IV ADHD was 1.9% (0.4). ADHD was associated with a 4–5% reduction in work performance (χ12=9.1, p=0.001), a 2.1 relative-odds of sickness absence (χ12=6.2, p=0.013), and a 2.0 relative-odds of workplace accidents-injuries (χ12=5.1, p=0.024). The human capital value (standard error) of the lost work performance associated with ADHD totaled US$4336 (676) per worker with ADHD in the year before interview. No data were available to monetize other workplace costs of accidents-injuries (e.g. destruction of equipment). Only a small minority of workers with ADHD were in treatment.

Conclusions Adult ADHD is a significantly impairing condition among workers. Given the low rate of treatment and high human capital costs, in conjunction with evidence from controlled trials that treatment can reduce ADHD-related impairments, ADHD would seem to be a good candidate for workplace trials that evaluate treatment cost-effectiveness from the employer's perspective.

(Received January 09 2008)

(Revised February 27 2008)

(Accepted March 03 2008)

(Online publication April 21 2008)


c1 Address for correspondence: R. C. Kessler, Ph.D., Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, 180 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA. (Email: